To call it the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre might be a little bit over dramatic, but tonight was certainly one of those backbreaking nights for the Devils. They lost to the Blackhawks 5-2 in Chicago.
Following the loss the other night in St. Louis – which was more inline with the word “massacre” – the Devils were looking for a statement game against the Hawks. Something to show that their pride was hurt and they were not going to lay down. They mostly accomplished this tonight if not for one man: Patrick Kane.
Kane had a hand in three of the Blackhawks’ five goals, scoring one and assisting on two others. He singlehandedly changed the course of the game with his goal, cutting a Devils’ 2-0 lead to one and setting off five unanswered by Chicago.
The lineup saw Blake Coleman missing just his second game of the season, as he is day-to-day with his injury. Some lineup changes saw Drew Stafford slot in on the fourth line, skating with Brett Seney and Kevin Rooney. Steven Santini came back in on defense, moving into the third pairing with Will Butcher. Kurtis Gabriel came out up front and Eric Gryba on the blue line as the healthy scratches.
In goal, Cory Schneider saw his regular season winless streak move to 21 games, as he mostly played well, but was the victim of a few costly breakdowns. He stopped 31 of 36 shots against for an .861 save percentage. Facing him was the veteran Cam Ward. Ward stopped 41 of the Devils’ 43 shots for a .953 save percentage. Both goalies stood on their heads at various points in the game for their teams.
On special teams, the Devils were 1-for-3 on the power play with six shots and a shorthanded shot as well. The Hawks were 0-for-3 as the Devils PK was perfect tonight. Chicago had three power play shots and four shorthanded shots, one of which they scored on.
Chicago leads the NHL in goals against but had come into the night having won six of their last seven. The Devils have had success recently against the Blackhawks, but that would not continue tonight.
Damon Severson got the scoring kicked off when he beat Ward 7:14 into the game. Seney found a nice passing lane right to Severson, who was pinching up, wide open on the right side of the rink at the bottom of the near faceoff circle. It is a high-risk, high-reward play, but it paid off as Severson scored and gave the Devils the early 1-0 lead.
The Devils took a 2-0 lead at the 16:42 mark on the power play when Travis Zajac scored while Brent Seabrook was serving a cross checking penalty. It was a nice tic-tac-toe passing play from Jesper Bratt to Marcus Johansson, who one-touched it to Zajac in the high slot. He one-timed it by Ward to double the Devils’ lead.
But then things started to go south for the Devils.
It began when, on a delayed penalty against New Jersey, Kane came on the ice as the extra attacker at 18:17 of the first period. Dylan Sikura got him the puck in the high slot and he beat Cory cleanly to make it 2-1 Devils. Artem Anisimov had the secondary assist. It was a rough blow for the Devils late in the period, to give one up like that.
The Chicago momentum would continue into second period. Just 20 seconds into the middle frame, Duncan Keith forced a turnover inside the Devils’ blue line. He got it to Kane, who made a one-touch, backhand pass to Drake Caggiula, who promptly snapped it home to tie the game at two.
Kane would play a crucial role in the game winning goal for Chicago too. Around the 13:12 mark of the second, he stole the puck in the Blackhawks’ zone, passed it to Slater Koekkoek who passed to Jonathan Toews. Toews one-timed the pass by Cory at 13:12 to give the Hawks a lead they would not relinquish.
Late in the second, Brett Seney took a hit that left him limping off of the ice. He seemed hurt but returned for the third period and completed the game.
Early in the third, the Devils had seemingly put one by Ward but the referee waved it off on the ice, saying that the puck never crossed the goal line. The play was reviewed by Toronto and confirmed the call. The Devils had seen another tough break go against them.
Anisimov would add an insurance goal for the Blackhawks when Brandon Saad won a faceoff back to Erik Gustafsson at the point. He got the puck on net and Schneider made the initial save but could not corral the rebound. Anisimov put it in at 13:36 of the third on just Chicago’s third shot of the period.
While the Blackhawks were killing off Marcus Kruger holding penalty, they would add one final nail in the Devils’ coffin. This shorthanded goal saw Toews and Saad break into the Devils’ zone on a 2-on-1 odd man rush. Cory made the first save, but the Devils’ backchecker, Damon Severson, could not clear the rebound and Saad was there to put home the shorty and give the Hawks the 5-2 lead at 15:15.
And that was our final. The Devils out shot the Hawks 43 to 36, won 52-percent of the game’s faceoffs and blocked more shots at 21 to 13. Chicago out hit the Devils 30-21 and had eleven turnovers to the Devils’ nine.
Individually, Severson led all Devils skaters with 23:43 of time on ice (including 3:08 on the power play and 1:41 shorthanded) while Kyle Palmieri led the forwards with 19:02 (3:08 on the PP). Bratt led the Devils in shots with eight, Rooney led in hits with six, Andy Greene and Butcher led in blocks with three each and Stafford had two takeaways to lead in that category.
Next up, the Devils will be right back at it tomorrow. They travel north to St. Paul to take on the Minnesota Wild for the second time in less than a week. That is an 8:30 PM tilt here on the East Coast. It is another chance for the Devils to show some compete and that they are not going to be buried following two really bad losses.
We will have coverage of that game for you right here and hope you will come read it. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment in the section below.